In 2015 the Colombian Constitutional Court issued a ruling (T-622) giving biocultural rights to the River Atrato. This ruling gives concrete orders to the Colombian state to protect the forests, river Atrato and its tributaries, and biodiversity of Choco, as well as, ordering them to fulfil their obligations in terms of the human rights of five indigenous tribes and the Afro-Colombian communities in Choco. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Peoples make up over 90% of the population.
Write to the Colombian Embassy asking about the implementation of this ruling.
Founded on the idea of a sustainable socio-environment, this new paradigm of rights in Colombia has been expressed as ‘bio-cultural’ rights: demanding the river’s ‘protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration’ and the safeguarding of the rights of communities. The ruling calls on the Colombian state to ensure these rights are enforced, as well as empowering local people to manage their river and participate in the implementation of T-622.
There are 14 Guardians of the Atrato elected by the communities that live along the river as part of the court ruling, the other Guardian for the State is the Environment Minister. The Guardians face major challenges. The Atrato’s the precious metal deposits of gold and copper have made the river a target for a range of different groups for financial gain, through both legal and illegal means. Armed groups control the lucrative mining operations which have not only devastated the river itself, but the social fabric of river communities. Toxic metals used in mining, aggressive dredging and widespread deforestation have had deeply damaging effects on traditional farming and fishing, while different armed groups terrorise and seek to control communities – especially those who attempt to stand up for their rights.
What have the Guardians of the River Achieved so far in Terms of Implementation
The communities and the former Colombian Environment Mininster agreed an Environmental Action Plan for Choco BUT
- there is no dedicated funding for its implementation,
- there are concrete projects but with no budget lines attached
How is it possible to implement a plan without a budget? If Colombia has a commitment to biodiversity and stopping forest loss then it must allocate a budget to the environmental action plan.